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7 Ways You Are Being Influenced with Dr. Robert Cialdini

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There are methods used to influence us to either buy or do something. We may even be persuaded to participate and only later on wonder how they got us to join. It is beneficial to know these seven principles that compel us to react. 

Today’s guest is Dr. Robert Cialdini. Dr. Cialdini is an author and keynote speaker as a leading expert on influence and persuasion. His books are published in 44 different languages and have sold over 7 million copies. He’s a New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today, best-selling author. He’s also been elected to membership in the National Academy of Sciences. 

Show Notes:

  • [1:10] – Dr. Cialdini got into this field because he was easily persuaded in the past.
  • [3:05] – Incognito, Dr. Cialdini answered as many ads and training programs he could get into to see how advertisers convinced people to buy.
  • [4:40] – In his research, he found that there are seven principles to persuasion.
  • [5:44] – The first principle is the principle of reciprocation. This is present in every culture.
  • [6:57] – First someone gives you something and then you feel obligated to give back.
  • [9:03] – Chris shares an experience at a restaurant to receive something for free that actually required him to do something first.
  • [11:37] – Is something genuinely giving you something or trapping you into compliance?
  • [12:19] – The second principle is the principle of “liking.” You will be influenced more by those who you like.
  • [13:48] – One way to get people to like us is to give them something which ties right into the principle of reciprocity.
  • [16:12] – Step back from the situation and separate the salesperson from what he or she is offering.
  • [17:18] – The next principle is the principle of social proof. If a lot of people are choosing or favoring something, it seems like something you should do, too.
  • [18:28] – We recognize when there are fake reviews. 5 star reviews generally make us skeptical.
  • [21:04] – Dr. Cialdini describes a study done in McDonald’s that boosted sales of one menu item by 40%.
  • [24:48] – The next principle is similar to social proof and decreases someone’s uncertainty. It is the principle of authority.
  • [25:58] – The problem with assuming someone is an expert is the appearance of actors and influencers being paid to promote.
  • [27:34] – Ask yourself, “Is this person an authority on the topic at hand?”
  • [28:32] – Also ask if the person is being unbiased in their testimonial.
  • [30:19] – The next principle is the principle of consistency. 
  • [32:01] – Dr. Cialdini shares why he no longer signs petitions. The pressure to be consistent can motivate us to do things we don’t want to do.
  • [35:28] – Sometimes sales sites will list an item or booking that there are only two left at this price and list a number of people also looking at the listing.
  • [37:38] – We don’t know all the time if something is legit.
  • [39:55] – Dr. Cialdini added a seventh principle to his book called the principle of community.
  • [41:17] – Dr. Cialdini demonstrates how this works with a personal example.
  • [43:11] – Be wary of promotions within your “tribe.”
  • [44:12] – Some companies will ask for collaboration to create unity and produce customer loyalty.
  • [47:09] – Dr. Cialdini shares a story about letting people into one’s house.
  • [50:55] – Check out Dr. Cialdini’s website for a Harvard article to help prevent digital attacks on your organization or business.

Thanks for joining us on Easy Prey. Be sure to subscribe to our podcast on iTunes and leave a nice review. 

Transcipt:

Dr. Robert Cialdini, thank you so much for coming on the Easy Prey Podcast today.

Well, I’m glad to be with you, Chris.

Thank you. Can you give me and the audience a little bit of background about how you got involved in influence and persuasion?

It has to do with all my life, I’ve been a sucker. I’ve been an easy pushover for the appeals of various sales operators and fundraisers that have come to my door. I would find myself in unwanted possession of things I didn’t really want on their merits or contributing to causes I hardly knew anything about.

I remember thinking to myself, “Wait a minute, there must be something other than the merits of the offer that got me to say yes to this, because I didn’t want these things. It must have been the way the offer was presented to me.” The psychological factor that swept me in the direction of this choice for reasons separate from the features associated with the choice. Isn’t that interesting?

That would be worth studying, and not just out of self-defense, but because people will be interested in knowing what the psychological factors are that sweep people toward yes in various kinds of situations for various kinds of appeals and offers. That set me off to begin studying, systematically and scientifically, the psychological factors that inclined people for yes in any kind of exchange.

Over what period of time have you been studying this out?

It’s been four years that I’ve been in the process, but one thing that I did for about two-and-a-half years to really get the essence of what was most powerful in this was that I became a spy of sorts. I entered the training programs of as many influence professions as I could get access to, incognito with disguised identity, disguised intent. I simply answered ads for trainees and I learned how to sell portrait photography over the phone. I learned how to sell insurance from an office, I learned how to sell cars from the lot. I learned how to sell nutritional packages door-to-door.

I didn’t stop there. I also infiltrated the training programs and fundraisers. What do they do to get us to say yes? Same with recruiters. How do they get us to move from a job that we are in and doing well, otherwise they wouldn’t be recruiting us to some uncertain new future where we might not flourish? What do they say? What are they doing across all of those instances?

I looked for the commonalities. What are the principles of social influence, of persuasion, that was being employed in parallel across any organization whose business it was to get us to say yes to them? What surprised me was how small the footprint was. I only counted six universal principles of influence and then I wrote a book on it, one of these principles to a chapter.

Since I’ve written a revision of this—just came out this year, where I’ve added a seventh principle and also added how these principles are used on the internet and digital kinds of platforms to move us in the direction of people who want us to say yes to them.

It’s a brand new book and I’ve added 220 pages, actually. There’s a lot of new research into the influence process—how it functions, why we’re susceptible to it, and how people have been able to harness it for profit.

Let’s talk about some of the ways these principles are being used. Let’s talk about what these principles are, how they’re being used unethically, and how we can kind of resist those principles.

Sure. Let’s start with the first, which is the principle of reciprocation. By the way, this principle exists in every human culture. There’s not a single human society on Earth that fails to train its members from childhood in this rule that says, “I am obligated to give back to you the form of behavior you had first given to me.”

If you invite me to a party, I should invite you to one of mine. You remember my birthday with a gift, I should remember yours. If you do me a favor, Chris, I owe you a favor. Here’s something that’s true around the world: people say yes to those they owe.

Yeah, that’s very true.

What you see various kinds of practitioners of influence doing is first giving something that is designed to make us feel obligated or grateful to them. Then they ask for the thing they were interested in all along. When I was traveling back, when I first was promoting the book, the Hare Krishna organization would be in airports and they would walk up to people and give them a book, the Back to Godhead magazine of the society, or sometimes it was a flower.

People would say, “No, I don’t want this here,” and they wouldn’t take it back. They’d say, “If you’d like to give a contribution for the good works of the society, that would be greatly appreciated.” I started watching what they would do and you can see the tension in the bodies of the people. They didn’t want this book, they didn’t want this magazine, they didn’t want this flower, but they couldn’t give it back.

They would fish into a pocket or a person, give a couple of dollars, and then they were freed. Then they were released from the interaction and the obligation. I followed them to see what they would do with the magazine, the book, or the flower. They threw it in the first waste container they came to. Do you know what the Krishna’s did who knew that this was the case?

They would go pick it up.

They’d send one of their members on a garbage row and they take that flower and they recycle it back through the process again. They knew that the power of the rule for reciprocity is potent and so they used it, I think, in this illegitimate way because they weren’t really giving anybody a gift. It was a strategy. It was an artifice designed to get something in return.

I think I’ve seen kind of—I’ll call it pseudo reciprocity because I think it’s a little bit backward. I remember a restaurant that my wife and I went to. We sat down and the waiter came up and before even taking our order, he asked, “Would you like a free dessert at the end of the meal?” We’re like, “Oh, OK. Yeah, sure. OK.”

He goes well, “OK, open up your phone and give our restaurant a five-star review. I need to see you hit the “Submit” button.” I was like, “No, I don’t want the dessert that bad because I don’t know if your service is going to be any good.”

What he did was mischaracterize that dessert. It wasn’t a gift, it wasn’t a free offer, it was contingent on something that you did first, right?

Yeah.

It was an inducement and you did right to turn it down because you shouldn’t feel obligated to something that requires you to do something first. A true gift, something that’s truly given out of a desire to benefit others or to give something that people need in some form of benevolence aren’t things we should turn down. That’s great. That’s the way we exchange in our society. People give and receive, and everybody gets something good.

If it’s a device, if it’s an artifice, here’s what the rule of reciprocity says: you are obligated to give back to people what they have given to you. You are not obligated to give a gift to somebody who’s used the sales strategy on you. That’s not the exchange. It’s only when there’s been a genuine benefit that’s been provided to you out of reasons that don’t involve self-interest on the part of the gift-giver that you should feel all right in the natural exchange of goods and services—people who give to me should receive from me in return.

Yeah. It’s more of if they happen to give me a piece of pie at the end of the meal, I’m much more likely to give that five-star review than if they tell me, “If you give the review, then you get the pie.”

Right, exactly.

I guess the thing that we want to watch out for is people trying to reverse this and they’re very clearly trying to get something from us as opposed to giving us something.

Right. We have to avoid people who are using this rule to trap us into compliance with their request or appeal. That’s not the way the rule was devised. It’s not the reason it exists. It would exist for people to exchange goods and services in a trusting mutually beneficial way—this is not.

Perfect. What’s the next principle?

The next principle is one that no one will be surprised to hear about. It’s the principle of liking: that people prefer to say yes to those individuals they like, who they feel a sense of rapport with.  What you will find is people claiming to like you and you  can do this by praising you and giving compliments of one sort or another.

There was the comedic actor McLean Stevenson—he was on Mash, the TV program Mash. He had a quote. He described how his wife tricked him into marriage: “She said she liked me.” People, we’re tremendous suckers for individuals who like us because we like those who like us and who say so in various kinds of compliments, praise, and so on. Watch out for those individuals who claim various kinds of an affinity for us without having a real basis for it.

Also, one way to get people to like us is to give them something. That’s the rule of reciprocity. If you go into an automobile dealership, and let’s say you want to buy a car. You’ll meet a salesperson. That person is likely, first of all, to give you a soft drink, a bottle of water, or a cup of coffee or tea. What would you like? Begin the situation with a gift then they will compliment you on your choice of options and so on.

They’ll even claim similarities with you. If they see in your trade-in that there are golf balls on the back seat, they’ll talk about you. “I hope the weather holds because I have to get in 18 holes of golf tomorrow. How about you? Are you a golfer? Yeah, you are? Really? Me too.” Suddenly, there’s a bond. They use all of those strategies to move us in their direction. As a consequence, we feel a greater sense of rapport.

What I always advise people when you’re confronted with such a salesperson and you come to like that person as a consequence of all of those strategies, use that as a flag that should go up in your mind that says, “Wait a minute. I’m liking this person more than is typical of somebody I’ve just met. Oh, yeah, he started out by giving me a cold bottle of water. He complimented me on my choice of options. He told me that he grew up in the same neighborhood or the same section of the city as I did.” All of these kinds of things.

Then remember, step back from that situation and separate the salesperson from what he or she is offering, because you will be driving that Toyota off the lot, not the salesperson. Focus on the merits of the exchange, the merits of the thing, not the merits of the person who’s offering that thing to you.

Yeah. It makes me think of outreach emails that I get, “Hey, it’s really neat that we’re in the same industry. I really like what you’re doing and the success that you’ve found.” That email could be sent to my wife, it could be sent to my brother, there’s no specificity. It’s so generic, but it’s all that kind of flattery and puffery.

Right, and that’s all that it’s designed to do. Whether they like you or not, whether that person really likes you, it’s really irrelevant. It’s for you, it’s to get you to like them.

Yeah. What is the next principle here?

The next principle is the principle of what we call social proof. The idea that if a lot of other people like us are doing something, choosing something, favoring something, it’s probably something that it makes sense for us to do, choose, or to favor because a lot of people have potentially beta-tested this for us. They’ve experienced it and they like it.

The five star ratings that we see on these various rating sites or even on the sites of people who are promoting a particular product or service. We have to be very careful with that because they can fake those ratings and they buy people’s ratings. They fabricate them. They get their employees to submit them and these kinds of things.

There are stories of this happening all the time. It’s interesting that as a consequence, we recognize when there are fake reviews by certain features of them, including how many five-star reviews there are. There’s an interesting study that showed that the star rating that gets the greatest number of people converting from a prospect into a customer on a digital site is not an average five-star rating.

Can I guess what the rating is?

Sure.

I want to see if this is something based on what I’ve heard. The person didn’t have a theory on it, they just didn’t know why, but it was something they observed. Is it 4.6?

Wow, you’re very close because it turns out it’s a range from 4.2-4.7. If your product is below 4.2, you started saying, “Maybe it’s not all that great.” If it’s above 4.7, you start getting skeptical that this is the real McCoy, that this rating is really the average and that it hasn’t been somehow fudged for purposes that we’re talking about here.

We always have to be aware of these kinds of unethical approaches to the social proof process, the process of saying, “Look at all the people around me like me who have chosen this.” This is probably a good thing. Only when we can see that the evidence is genuine, it’s provided by an independent source, and when it seems authentic should we be swept by that information.

Once it is, we ought to be swept by it. I want to know that this is a very powerful or popular strategy or approach. There was a study done in McDonald’s, by the way, that showed that most McDonald’s purchasers don’t purchase dessert, they do other things.

In this experiment, if the person behind the counter added this at the end of the order, this sentence: “Would you like to order dessert today?” That didn’t do much. But if they said, “Would you like to order dessert? Our most popular dessert at this location is our McFlurry.” McFlurry orders went up 45%. You give people genuine social proof and they’re more likely to say, “Oh, well, that might be something I’d be interested in.”  And it was true.

Particularly if you go to different McDonald’s and the popular item changes.

Right. And the way they did that—because McFlurry is the most popular at all McDonald’s—but they said, “And the most popular topping at this restaurant is such.” That would change from location to location. That also increased the choice of toppings. I think in that case it was 40%.

It’s almost a vicious cycle of positive interaction, so to speak.

Yeah.

I guess it’s really easy these days on websites and even, I suppose, in print ads, you could just put a fake review on there.

That’s right, you can. The sites are developing algorithms to try to catch those fake reviews, but the producers of those fake reviews are figuring ways to finesse those algorithms. It’s always a fight. It’s always a tussle. We just have to be alert to the fact that not all of them are on the up-and-up.

I was interviewing someone else and he talked about it, and I’ve seen this occasionally when I buy a product from Amazon. There’ll be a little piece of paper inside Amazon’s product box that says, “Leave us a five-star review, send us a photo of it, and we’ll send you an Amazon gift card for $20.” “OK, that’s why this product has 150,000 reviews.”

Exactly. They’re fixing the system. When you see that, be skeptical of anything that this manufacturer tells you about the popularity of its products and services.

Then it also made me think of, “OK, well, how often do I leave a review of a product?” Maybe one out of 100 products that I buy I might leave a review, and it’s usually if it surprised me of being better quality than it really was, or it didn’t really meet my use case, I might say something.

If you are only reviewing 1% of your purchases and something has 100,000 reviews, that means they’ve sold 10 million of them. If it’s something that everybody doesn’t have, you almost have to be suspicious because of the number of reviews also.

We have to be detectives of deception, and these are the kinds of things we can look for.

What is our next principle?

The next one is similar to social proof in that it reduces a person’s uncertainty of what to do in a situation by looking outside of themselves. People, when they’re uncertain, they don’t look inside for an answer. All they see is that confusion and lack of certainty. They look outside and one place they look is to their peers. What have all the people around me done?

The other is to look to authorities. That’s the next principle. The principle of authority. What do the experts say? What are the people who are genuinely credentialed, genuinely knowledgeable, informed about this topic? What are they saying about it?

Again, when we see evidence from independent judges saying something that we can guarantee to ourselves, or at least expect there’s a high probability that this is a legitimate expert voice. It makes sense to follow the lead of knowledgeable others. The problem, once again, is the counterfeiting of those voices.

You see, for example, ads of people claiming to be knowledgeable in the medical arena. They’re wearing a white coat and they have a stethoscope. It turns out that’s not illegal. It’s unethical, but they’re just actors. Remember that great TV ad from decades ago that began, “I’m not a doctor, but I play one on TV”? That sold a lot of cough syrup because people were swept by the aura of authority. Just the aura. The surface characteristics of authority.

We have to be very careful about that because people can be dressed to be authorities or they have various kinds of titles and so on that can be easily fabricated, and we have to be sure that that’s something, once again, that we check with reality rather than automatically assuming that somebody who has these characteristics—the trappings of authority—is actually there. I suggest that you ask yourself two questions when you see an authority communicator who’s recommending.

The first is, is this person truly an authority on the topic at hand? You’ve got people who are authorities of one sort or another but may not be an authority on this. Remember Joe Namath? He’s selling reverse mortgages or something like that. Matthew McConaughey is an expert at acting. What does he know about Chryslers? You’ve got to separate the true credentials of the authority from the message. That’s one question. Is this person truly an authority here?

Secondly, even if the person is an authority, you have to ask yourself, “Is this person providing an unbiased view, or is this person being paid in some way or another to provide this testimonial?” On the internet now, there are these influencers. These people have hundreds of thousands of followers who come on and tell you how to put your makeup on in the morning, how to buy a car, how to do whatever it is that’s of interest.

Then, a lot of times, you find out that they’re being paid by the manufacturers to do that. Whenever that’s the case, reduce your confidence in that person’s recommendations. It’s just not an accurate depiction of reality anymore. The probability is it’s being influenced by payment to say these positive things.

That’s particularly common with affiliate marketing on the internet. That people are paid a commission if they refer to a product.

Exactly, and if you refer to it positively, you’re more likely to get people to buy it and you get your check to grow in size as a consequence.

And our next principle.

Next principle is what we call commitment and consistency. That is the idea that if people have made a commitment, either taken a position on an issue, made a small step in the direction of a particular POV of a product or service, they then become more willing to be consistent with it with what they’ve already done in the future.

One of the things that we’re often asked to do is to take a small step in a particular direction, something that seems inconsequential. “Could you sign this petition, for example, to save such and such?” After you’ve signed the petition, they’ll say, “Well, would you give a donation?” They don’t begin with the donation. No, they get you to take a small to go on record favoring this.

They did a study like this in Israel where people signed a petition for housing for homeless people. And then a week later, they got somebody who came to their door and said, “Could you give a donation for housing?” Those people were significantly more likely to do it than people who weren’t asked to sign the petition in the first place, who weren’t asked to take a small step in that direction. Again, I don’t sign petitions anymore.

Yeah, neither do I.

Not even for organizations I support, unless I want to say to myself, “I’m going to use this signature as a spur to motivate myself to do something more for this organization.” I don’t sign petitions anymore unless I want to use that signature as a spur to get myself motivated to do more for this organization in the future because I have taken that public stand. Otherwise, I don’t sign those petitions because frequently, they’re just designed to get me to take a stand and then they ask me next to be consistent with that stand.

The pressure to be consistent with what we’ve already committed ourselves to, especially in public, can motivate us to do the things we ordinarily wouldn’t want to do. We always have to be careful of those first small steps that people are asking us to take because they’re not without consequence. It might seem, “Oh sure, I’ll just sign this petition, get this person out of my face.” No, there are internal psychological consequences that make us more likely to follow through.

This is also referred to as micro-commitments?

Yes, that would be a good term for them—these small little things. There was, for example, a study done where people were asked to take a small little sign—about the size of an index card—to support safe driving in their neighborhoods. To put the sign on a window of their house or in the corner of the windshield of their car.

A couple of weeks later, when visitors came to their door and asked them to put a big sign on their lawn supporting safe driving, those people were significantly more likely to do it. We always have to watch out for those seemingly inconsequential first steps; they actually are not inconsequential.

Is that the same sort of thing as salespeople trying to get you to repeatedly say yes? Is that sort of a similar philosophy?

Yes, there is that strategy of getting people committed to saying yes to small steps along the way. Would you like this color or that color?

What is the next principle of persuasion?

The next one is the principle of scarcity. The idea that people want more of those things they can have less of. When we are offer things that are dwindling in availability, only available for a certain time, or only so many are left up, and if you don’t move now you won’t be able to get one. Those kinds of things, again, can be falsified. There are always these organizations that have sales.

Perpetual.

Perpetual sales for this time only, but this time is forever. They’re using the scarcity principle to get us to move in that direction.

At least I believe I see this a lot with vacation elements, like hotels and airlines that there’s only two left of this price, which seems to be this oddly reoccurring number over and over.

There’s a booking company called booking.com. They do hotel and airline bookings. When they first started using the scarcity principle for hotel room bookings, they would give people evidence of what the price of this room was and they would say only two left at this price. And then they started adding competition for those two. They would say, “And there are five people looking at this room right now.”

That produced such a spike in purchases. It spurred people to get off the fence and buy that the company’s sales division sent an email to their technology unit saying, “There must be something wrong with the site because we’re getting so much business here. We’ve never seen this much business.” No, they had begun using this combination of scarce resources with competition for them, and that suite of features blew the top off their sales records.

I can imagine. How do we know when a site is listing inventory, people viewing the page, if it’s legitimate or not?

Don’t know all the time. What we have to do is rely on people who do know what the situation is who’s blown the whistle on them or people who’ve come who’ve been told that there’s a certain unique feature about a particular thing than when they get it. It isn’t unique at all, it’s nothing special, and who then sends in a report about this, do a rating. We need to do our homework. We need to be detectives of influence on this sort of thing.

But booking.com, for example, was criticized and investigated—they’re a Dutch company—by the Netherlands government, and they were shown to be doing what they were doing honestly, but in a kind of shady way. That is, they would say only two rooms left at this price. But there were five other rooms left at that price plus $2. There were other prices that were essentially similar, but they were making it sound like if you didn’t get this you would lose this package. They’ve been pushed to do it in a much more transparent and honest way.

It’s very easy to say, “Well, technically we were right. There were only two rooms at that price. There were two more rooms at one cent more. Two more rooms at one cent more.” If you’re looking at booking airline tickets and you’re looking at different dates at different times and you keep seeing the same number coming up, “Oh, there’s only two left,” let’s say. There might be a reason to be suspicious of that because if you’re looking at different dates, sometimes the odds of there just being two is pretty unlikely.

I know that you’ve now added a seventh principle with the next edition of the book. What is the seventh principle?

It’s what we call the principle of unity, which has to do with the perception that on the part of people who receive a communication that the communicator is one of them, is a member of a group that they use to define themselves. It can be residents of a particular community. It can be people of a particular political party. It can be people of a particular religion. These are the things that you use to define your identity, and these people will tell you, “I’m one of you. I’m not just similar to you. I’m of you. I’m one of you.” Once people believe that, they’re much more likely to favor those individuals who share that category membership.

For example, I found myself doing something like this a while ago. I grew up in Wisconsin. The NFL football team in Wisconsin everybody knows is the Green Bay Packers, and I’ve always been a Packer fan. A while ago, I was reading a newspaper article that listed the favorite NFL teams of various celebrities. I learned that Justin Timberlake and Lil Wayne were both avid Packer fans. Chris, I immediately thought better of their music, and I wanted them to be more successful in the future. They were one of us, right?

We have to watch out for people who are making these claims, and the way that they often do it is to find out what our strong identities are and claim to be a member.

This is what happens with affinity scams, for example. These kinds of situations where people will cheat members of their group—Baptists, Catholics, Italian Americans, Armenian Americans, Republicans, whatever it is. These people will claim to be of you. Get your sense of unity with them and then inside the boundaries of what I call the “we” groups, these are people that we use the pronoun “we” to describe who we are. Those people then get favored by us.

It’s almost be wary of anything business opportunities, promotional stuff within our tribe, so to speak.

In our tribes, it’s about tribalism, essentially.

I assume we see this from corporations maybe espousing, “We’re a green corporation,” yet they don’t stand behind those values, that sort of thing.

Yes. If you are an environmentalist, so are we. Come be part of our organization. Another way that companies do this is to get us to co-create with them their next line of products. They will say, “What we’d be interested in is having your input in how to create the next generation of our product or service. What features would you like to see? Please give us your input.” What that does is to create a sense of we-ness—a cooperative, collaborative sense of togetherness with that company. What you find is that co-creation produces very large increments in customer loyalty and satisfaction with the company.

I’m going to make this up: even if the company goes a different direction than a bulk of the input?

Yes. I don’t think I’ve seen a study that breaks that out. But what they say is that the act of being a partner with, the act of collaborating with causes people to feel a greater sense of we-ness, of unity. Short of the consequences yet, but just that act produces it.

I had a recent interview with Chris Kirsch about pickpocketing. One of the things that he talked about was when you’re out in public and a tourist in someplace, when someone comes up and stands next to you—“Hey, I’m trying to figure out how to get here.” That act of standing next to you is what family does. And now you’re collaborating trying to find this person their destination while they’re taking their wallet from you . They’ve now been a part of that “we” and are physically closer than you would let someone else be to you.

Also, you are helping them, you’re partnering with them toward these goals, and that you’re one of the we. When I was first learning how to sell in this particular instance, it was fire alarm systems to homes. I went along with the salesperson who was the eighth of the sales staff, always getting the most people to buy. We would go to their home and he would do something very interesting. All the other salespeople will take along with them a big book of information about the benefits and features of this home fire alarm system and how it was better than all the rivals. They would page through with people and try to use it to convince.

This guy would leave it in the car. Many would come in, he’d introduce himself, and he’d say, “I wanted to give you a little test about fire safety in the home, would you mind taking the test?” While they were taking the test, he would say, “Oh, I forgot something. There was a book, a very important information in the car. Would you mind if I let myself in and out of your house to get it?”

Sometimes that really involves giving him a key to their front door, and because they were involved in the test at the time—taking the test—they said, “Here. Yeah, fine.” I asked him about it afterward. The first two times he wouldn’t tell me what he was doing. And then finally, when I persisted, he said, “Bob, listen. Who do you let in and out of your house? Only people you feel connected to—your family, your friends, your relatives. I wanted to be in that group in their minds.” It’s like standing next to somebody but a different form of getting them to see you as characteristic of the people that they see as a we within a we group.

Watch out for people inserting themselves into your tribe.

Exactly. Claiming to have membership.

Particularly only after you’ve mentioned that you’re part of a particular tribe.

Or they’ve looked you up on the internet and so on and come to see where the groups are that you belong to and so on—veterans groups, religious groups, political groups, and so on.

They walk in and see the Green Bay Packers. They see the Cheesehead in the corner. Now I know who my favorite football team is.

You’re from Wisconsin, my wife’s from Wisconsin, she’s a big Packer fan, and of course….That sort of thing.

I have seen the same sort of thing in LinkedIn connection requests. “Oh, my brother is from the same city that you’re from.” My initial thought was like, “Why would I care that your brother grew up in my town? What does that have to do with you?”

Yes, good point. But we don’t think about that typically unless we step back from the situation and review it.

Unfortunately, the way I look at all LinkedIn requests. Anytime someone sends me a request and they want to connect with me, I always think, “Why do you want to connect with me? Are you trying to sell me something?” It’s that why always triggers in my head. The more generic or sometimes even the more specific the request is, the more suspicious it is to me.

If people want to learn more about ethical influence, what kind of—I know you’ve got your book, but you guys have seminars or anything like that?

We do. We have online seminars regarding ethical influence, and we’ve got more than one book, but they can certainly get information about all of that on our website, influenceatwork.com. By the way, we just had, this morning, come out of a Harvard Business Review online article about how to use these six principles of influence to protect your organization against online hackers.

Oh, awesome.

Yeah. Be sure that you protect yourself against the strategies that they could use that would lead to these kinds of digital attacks on your organizations.

I will definitely link to both of those resources on our show notes.

It’s on all our social media: Twitter @robertcialdini.

Awesome. Bob, thank you so much for coming on the Easy Prey Podcast today.

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